Long before the saber-tooth tiger, there was Diegoaelurus.
Paul Souders/Photodisc/Getty Images
Wolves, polar bears, and lions are some of Earth’s many hypercarnivores — meaning that meat makes up more than 70 percent of their diets.
It took considerable time for mammals to evolve the right teeth and digestive systems to become hypercarnivores.
The remains of an ancient cat-like creature, described March 15 in the journal PeerJ, could help piece together the evolution of this class of predators.
San Diego Natural History Museum
Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae, roughly the size of a bobcat, is a newly-known species described from a well-preserved fossil of its jaw and teeth.
It’s part of a class of predatory mammals known as machaeroidines, which sported pointy teeth and lived up to 54.9 million years ago during the Eocene epoch.
Machaeroidines were the first cat-like predators known to exist.
But their remains are limited to only a few isolated fossils, with Diegoaelurus adding to the bunch.
This map shows the distribution of machaeroidines in North America.
“We know so little about Machaeroidines, so every new discovery greatly expands our picture of them.”
Diegoaelurus shows that machaeroidines were more diverse than previously realized.
“We already knew there was a large form, Apataelurus, which lived in eastern Utah. Now we have this smaller form, and it lived at approximately the same time.”
Shawn Zack, study co-author.